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News roundup: Vermont Dept. of Health reports 224 new COVID-19 cases Friday

A blue background with the words Vermont News Roundup with a green Vermont icon over the "R"
Elodie Reed
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VPR

Vermont reporters provide a roundup of top news takeaways about the coronavirus and more for Friday, Oct. 22.

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While Vermont's pandemic state of emergency has ended, the delta variant is now circulating around the state. Click here for the latest on new cases, and find the latest vaccination data online any time.

1. Vermont Dept. of Health reports 224 new COVID-19 cases

There are 224 new COVID-19 infections in Vermont Friday, the health department reported, as the positivity rate over the past week dropped to 2.9%.

The number of people in the hospital due to the coronavirus ticked up to 47. Ten people are in the ICU.

The overall vaccination rate of eligible Vermonters with at least one dose of a vaccine is just over 89%, but younger Vermonters still lag behind that figure.

Just over 63% of Vermonters between the ages of 18 and 29 have gotten their first dose of any vaccine.

Matthew Smith

State to review attendance waivers for schools on a case-by-case basis again, due to COVID-19

For the third year in a row, Vermont's Secretary of Education has been given the authority to grant attendance waivers to schools that have to close due to COVID-19.

Under existing education law, schools in Vermont must be open for at least 175 days, and it’s up to the State Board of Education to consider waivers when schools have to close.

The law also says that a majority of students must be in the classroom for days to count, but the coronavirus has been wreaking havoc with attendance.

As the delta variant spreads, schools have been forced to go remote, and in some cases classrooms are closing, while the rest of the school remains open.

At it's meeting this week, the State Board of Education said Education Secretary Dan French can once again make decisions on granting waivers on a case-by-case basis.

Howard Weiss-Tisman

2. Struggling with a utility bill? You can apply for state assistance through Sunday

Vermonters struggling to pay past utility bills due to the pandemic have until Sunday to apply for a state program designed to help.

Electric, water, sewer, natural gas and landline phone bills dated after April 1, 2020 qualify.

Green Mountain Power’s Steve Costello says about 19,000 of their customers are at least 60 days behind.

“We’re dealing with people who’ve never been behind before – their whole lives were turned upside down by COVID," he said.

He's encouraging them to take advantage of the program, which is open to both residential and commercial customers.

"You know: the mom and pop store, the farm down the the road. And you know, just about any business that is based in Vermont could potentially qualify for this assistance," Costello said. "And for residential accounts, they can get up to $10,000 in assistance for commercial accounts that number is $50,000. So this is not small dollars. There’s a lot of assistance available and it’s critical people apply soon.”

You can apply online for the Vermont COVID-19 Arrearage Assistance Program.

Nina Keck

3. Vermont Principal's Association releases new guidance regarding harassment at sporting events

The Vermont Principal's Association on Tuesday released new guidance for dealing with harassment at school sporting events.

It comes after several publicized incidents this fall.

The VPA, which governs high school sports, set up an online portal, where people can report instances of harassment, and is working to offer a third-party option to investigate incidents.

The association is also asking for a statement to be read at the beginning of all school sponsored events.

The statement outlines behavioral expectations, as well as possible consequences for violation.

In September, a high school soccer game between Winooski and Enosburg Falls gained attention following allegations of racist abuse.

Only one of the subsequent investigations conducted by the school districts substantiated those reports, according to VTDigger. Meanwhile, Seven Days reports that a Winooski player is facing possible criminal charges for allegedly head-butting another player during the game.

Anna Van Dine

4. Dartmouth College raises more than $3 billion in fundraising campaign

Dartmouth College has reached a rare distinction this week.

It’s one of a few dozen institutions of higher education to raise more than $3 billion in a fundraising campaign.

Dartmouth College surpassed a record $3 Billion in donations since its fundraising campaign launched three years ago.

For comparison, that’s almost half of Vermont’s state budget last year.

And far above the University of Vermont’s recent $580 million campaign.

Dartmouth says it’s using the funding to position itself as a leading research university, support faculty, upgrade campus facilities and expand financial aid.

The news follows an announcement earlier this month that Dartmouth’s endowment will no longer be directly invested in fossil fuel companies.

The college's last fundraising campaign raised $1.3 billion, and ended in 2010.

Lexi Krupp

Abagael Giles compiled and edited this post.

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